Positions and Situations Feedback: Jobs and Joint Land Ownership

Lynne Spaulding gives feedback on Positions and Situations ads and problems with homestead jobs or joint land ownership deals with people you don't know.

| May/June 1975

The following insights were gained as the result of events that followed the publication of an ad in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Positions and Situations section. Although I don't wish to give any details of my experience, I'd like to offer a few thoughts for the consideration of others who are getting together by correspondence over long distances.

It seems to me that the use of "contact" services such as P & S has created some novel social situations. We've all heard of "mail-order brides", of course, but in this case many more people are involved . . . with whole families and even communities meeting others from across the continent.

I've done some thinking about the consequences of such meetings seeking homestead jobs or joint land ownership situations, and — although the choice of words may be awkward — I like to describe the relationships thus formed as "inorganic" . . . as compared to the "organic" interactions of normal life.

Here's what I mean: People usually encounter one another by a natural coming together of some sort . . . in classrooms or bars, at dances, in the park. If they're mutually attracted for whatever reason, they can plan to meet again (and if not, the subject just doesn't come up). Each subsequent meeting then happens in a non–pressured way. There's no great need for those concerned to decide whether they're going to be friends forever, or whether they'll be able to flow together on all levels. They can just sit back, make overtures, see one another as often as they like, and gradually become close . . . or drift apart.

Meetings arranged through a contact service, however, are another matter entirely. The crucial difference is that the ads which lead to such encounters are normally placed because of need . . . in some cases urgent need, or there'd have been no resort to advertising in the first place. The notices that appear in P & S are there because the writers must have help on their homesteads, or hope to find land, or are looking for families to share their acreage . . . and whatever it is that such folks want, they very often want it right now. The degree of desperation can range from none to acute, but just the fact that an ad was placed imposes a degree of stress on advertiser and respondents that wouldn't operate in an organic relationship.

Here's the sort of pattern that can result: The advertisers receive various responses, weed out the many that don't interest them, and continue to correspond with the one or two families or groups who seem most promising. The parties then exchange many, many letters telling all about themselves, their dreams, and their plans. Both sides may feel so hopeful and excited about the relationship (this has to work!) that they unconsciously stress their compatibilities and similarities Thus, by the time they agree to meet, each group has imposed on the other the burden of possibly being The Ones.  

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